How to make the most of your New Year's climbing resolutions

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 14/01/2016
Neil Gresham, training guru. Photo: Karl Gregory / HangboardGuru
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Trying out some New Year resolutions? Perhaps this time you're aiming for steely fingers or hoping to just stick to that training plan? Well read on to get the latest inside info from our star-studded panel of experts that will help you stick to those resolutions and improve your climbing this year.

Have you always wanted to improve your technique, head-game or trad grade? Try DWS or stick to a training regime? Actually use that fingerboard or build your own woody? If so you've come to the right place. 

Our star-studded panel of climbing experts – Dan Varian, Neil Gresham, Molly Thompson-Smith, Steve McClure, Emma Twyford, Aidan Roberts, Mike Robertson and Hazel Findlay no less – have given us the low down with a range of top tips on how you can actually keep those climbing resolutions this year.
 

Molly Thompson-Smith
Step up your technique

17-year-old Londoner Molly Thompson-Smith dominates the British competition climbing circuit and is number one in the world for her age category:
mollythompsonsmith.blogspot.co.uk

1 First and foremost is footwork. Try dedicating 10 minutes to it at the end of a session; perhaps traversing and precisely placing your feet, or focussing on heel hooking or slabby problems. Take your time, choosing a suitable part of your shoe for each hold. For example, when smearing place your toes flat against the wall and sink your weight down through your heels. 

2 Good body positioning increases efficiency. Think about your centre of gravity, and which part of your body is carrying the most weight (it should be your feet!). The position of your hips or even what your head is doing can make a move harder or put you off balance. Getting someone to watch and critique or filming yourself makes a huge difference here.

3 Keep it diverse, don't stick to styles you like. Variety will help massively as you’ll gain new knowledge and skills. By practicing the moves until they feel comfortable, your technique will improve.

WATCH: Molly Thompson-Smith 'Portrait of a champion' on BMC TV


Hazel Findlay
Improve your head game

Full-time climber Hazel was the first British woman to climb an E9 trad route, and to free El Capitan in Yosemite. She coaches the mental aspect of climbing: 
hazelfindlayclimbing.com

Do you climb well until you're above your last piece of gear and then become over-tense, have lots of negative internal monologue and struggle to focus? If this is you, then you're distracted by the fear of falling. Or maybe you don't try hard routes because you're worried what other people will think of you? These are two of the most common climbing distractions.

The basis for strengthening your mind as a climber is to cultivate a strong sense of awareness of body and mind to discover what's distracting you, and then work on eliminating those things. Your mind needs to go to those places that scare it, but gently; for example practicing falling but through a slow gradual process – no taking huge whippers at first! 

The best thing about mental training is that the same skills apply to the rest of life, so it's a very worthwhile process.

WATCH: Hazel talk about being a BMC Ambassador on BMC TV


Dan Varian
Actually use that fingerboard

Dan Varian is co-owner of Beastmaker, the cutting edge in fingerboards, and has been at the forefront of British bouldering for over ten years: 
www.beastmaker.co.uk

1 Put your fingerboard somewhere warm, dry, inviting and at a good height, so you're not on tip toes. If it’s not there, or it’s hard to reach, you’ll use it less.

2 Avoid distractions and leaving the room too much while training.

3 Don’t expect push too hard or expect too much too soon. Even 5% improvement in a six-week plan is a very good gain if it stays with you. 

4 Have multiple times you can train and go for the one that works on that day. This might be before dinner or in the morning or in a lunch break. It helps to be flexible rather than making an all-or-nothing regime where if you miss your slot then the plan starts to fall apart.

5 Don’t jump up the difficulty too fast: tendons and pulleys adapt a lot slower than muscle so make sure you feel confident that you are solid at your current level before introducing harder exercises.


Steve McClure
Stick to a daily 10-minute exercise routine

Steve McClure needs no introduction as the superman of the British sport scene and a general all-round top climber: 
stevemcclure.com

My New Year's resolution is to do an exercise routine every day, except on outdoor climbing days: 10 pull-ups, 10 press-ups and 20 sit-ups within one minute, then repeat.

This is my weak link: big muscle group stuff. I think many climbers miss out aerobic exercise. This kind of thing really raises the heart rate and also provides a big whack of conditioning in a very short space of time.

Choosing an exercise that is not only appropriate, but can actually fit in with a busy life means I can hopefully keep it up. After all, a few minutes a day is hardly a big ask. The only apparatus is a bar, or thing to hang on somewhere. And flipping heck it does hurt.

Motivationally, gains should be apparent too. The goal is to repeat it 10 times in 10 minutes. I'll let you know how that goes.

WATCH: Steve McClure tackle E10 Choronzon on BMC TV


Neil Gresham
Put together and stick to a training plan

Britain’s most experienced climbing coach has just produced a new fingerboarding app, Hangboardguru. He's sponsored by Sherpa Adventure Gear, La Sportiva, Petzl and Julbo Eyewear.

Spend 15 minutes on a rough overview of the next 6-12 months and it will be the most productive time you spend in your entire climbing year.

1 Keep it simple. There's so much baffling science out there, providing the potential to lose motivation at the first hurdle. Base your plan on common-sense principles like prioritising weaknesses and goals.

2 Identify when you want to be most on form and for which styles of climbing: for example trips away or comps. Next, identify training peaks, times to simply maintain performance and points you could burn out (like the end of long performance period), then drop in rest phases.

3 Allocate themes for each phase: typically strength, strength-endurance, or low-intensity endurance. Then prioritise the main theme of each phase while keeping other elements topped up. For example, in a strength phase, train strength two or three times a week and endurance once.

4 Things like fingerboarding work best when you create a precise routine and stick to it, but you can free-style more with climbing sessions, perhaps just setting the number of routes and grades.

5 Try new combinations, don’t roll out the same old set pieces. Training programmes are effective mainly because they allow themes to be followed to their conclusion and encourage you to do things that are different.


Emma Twyford
Improve a grade at trad

Emma is sponsored by Rab, 5.10, DMM, V12 Outdoor, Climbskin and is an ambassador for Grip and Go: 
www.emmatwyford.wordpress.com.

1 Physical training helps, but you also have to play some mental battles. The first step is to commit pen to paper and write down that outcome goal for the year, be it stepping up from S to VS, or that route you’ve always dreamed about doing.

2 Consider what your strengths are and pick a route that plays in your favour. You could go back and lead a route you've previously seconded to make that initial breakthrough.

3 Get your head in the zone while training for a good weather opportunity by improving your indoor sport fitness; don't forget to take some falls with your partner to build up that trust relationship.

4 Keeping that motivation going can be tough so have stepping stones. Write down route markers leading up to your route – have a wishlist to tick off and give yourself a mantra that tells your head you can do it. Good luck!

WATCH: Emma make the 5th ascent of E9 Rare Lichen on BMC TV


Aidan Roberts
Build your own woody

After just three years in the sport, Aidan could climb 8B, thanks to a woody he built in his stable. Here he explains what you should be thinking of if you build your own.

Firstly, the name: 'woody'. The benefits of wooden holds are: lack of friction requires you to pinch or crimp harder; it's not skin-wrecking; and it's more practical for fitting on more holds – resin pinches and slopers seem to be growing in size.

So you've got your board and you've got your holds. It's often hard to fit in a high board at home, so steep is more space-efficient and better for core. Now you've got two main choices: symmetry or not? And feet follow or individual foot holds? 

Symmetry allows you to train more evenly and eliminate imbalances, but making and setting the holds is slightly more tricky. You won't pick up any major imbalances without symmetry but it depends how picky you are.

'Feet follow' (foot movements have to match preceding hand movements, with no intermediate moves) is a better simulation of climbing, whereas individual foot holds can be useful for improving core tension as you can use footholds which are far worse than anything you could pull on! It's all a matter of preference. If you're unsure, I'd recommend a mix.


Mike Robertson
Try deep water soloing

mikerobertsonphotography.com / see his ebooks on Amazon

It’s a bit early in 2016 for deep water soloing in the UK right now, but...

Plan ahead. You might want to be attending those swimming (or high diving) classes you’ve thought about for years, but even better is to head somewhere that warm water and rocks smooch each other beneath idyllic blue skies. But if that’s currently impossible … arm yourself with knowledge of tides and all that silly logistical stuff, and pull together an enticing route hit list for the UK summer. Above all else, stop taking climbing so seriously, and resolve this:

1 Explore! Over and over again, at every opportunity.

2 Get in the water. Wet, wet, wet.

3 Take a great team and have lots of fun.

4 Just forget the grades, ’cos they’re a ridiculous tie – just aim for maximum commitment and participation on S0s and S1s.

5 Stop trying to stay dry!

(6 And please find us another Diablo!)


Happy New Year!


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